Gardening

7 Types of Fruit Trees You Can Grow in Your Living Room

May 18, 2017

There are decorative house plants and then there are edible plants that you tend to in a tiny kitchen garden. But what about in between?

If you're looking for an indoor plant that's both decorative and edible, look to the world of fruit trees! While many grow to be enormous in the wild and are native to perpetually sunny conditions, there are a number of dwarf plants that will do just fine—and even fruit!—in a big pot in your living room. Proper care and conditions (and a reliable nursery for sourcing them!) are extra important if you want an indoor fruit tree to prosper, but with freshly grown produce is the goal (and no garden required), we have confidence in your drive. Here's a primer on fruit trees that you can grow indoors.

1. Figs

Now that you've seen this stunner, will you ever go back to fiddleleaf? Photo by Another Ballroom (via Riazzoli)

Fruit?

If you want a fig tree that fruits, steer clear of the ever-popular decorative fiddleleaf—which won't even consider it. Instead choose a small cultivar like Brown Turkey (also known as Negro Largo or Aubique Noire), which tolerates heavy pruning, is self-pollinating, and can thrive indoors. They'll sprout pretty oblong leaves.

Planting & Care

The size of the pot you choose will factor into how large and productive your tree becomes (opt for a larger planter for more fruit, smaller if you need the fig tree to stay small). Water it about once a week, until it comes out of the drainage holes, and prune when it reaches the size you want.

Habitat

While inedible fig trees do fine in indirect sunlight, edible cultivars will need to be positioned in bright light—right in line with a northern exposure would be ideal. They don't like the cold at all, so keep away from drafty doors and windows.

2. Lemons & 3. Limes

Happy indoor lemons. Photo by Atelier Rue Verte, Ode to Things

Fruit?

If you want to grow lemons and limes inside, opt for a dwarf cultivar that self-pollinates—like Meyer Lemon (which doesn't require as much heat to ripen the fruit) or Kaffir Lime; they'll yield the quickest crop and the plant will stay a manageable size.

Planting & Care

The best soil for growing healthy citrus trees is slightly acidic and loam-based (meaning 2:2:1 sand to silt to clay). They also like lots of moisture in the air—up to 50% humidity, ideally!—but you can simulate that environment by spritzing them regularly with water from a spray bottle. Let the soil fully dry out before watering.

Habitat

No surprise here: Citrus plants need a whole lot of sunlight—8 to 12 hours of it every day. Place your tree in the sunniest spot you have—better yet if it's a room with double exposure (southern and eastern, say). And if you have any outdoor space, they'd appreciate a few months in the fresh air if you have a balmy summer.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Some people CAN get these to fruit indoors but (as mentioned below in two posts from me) but they need to know what they are doing. Submitted respectfully.”
— Sharon H.
Comment

More: A week of dinner recipes inspired by a bag of Meyer Lemons.

4. Olives

Fruit?

Self-pollinating and prolific (a single tree can produce as many as 20 pounds of fruit a year), olive trees do not require much care compared to other fruit trees. When shopping for an indoor olive tree, keep in mind that many cultivars are purely ornamental, meaning they won't fruit, but there are great indoor varieties that will: Consider an Arbequina—which is slow-growing and will drip water through the leaves (called "weeping")—or a Picholine, which is more upright.

Planting & Care

Indoor olive trees need only be watered when the top inch of soil has dried out, and less in fall and winter when they take a natural rest.

Habitat

An olive tree needs at least 6 hours of solid sunlight each day. Place it near a sunny, south-facing window (but not too close or the leaves will frizzle).

5. Avocados

Fruit?

To be clear, it's very very tough to get an indoor avocado tree to fruit but it isn't impossible. Instead of growing one from a seed (that is, the pit—see above left), seek out a grafted starter plant that has some tissue from a tree that does produce good-tasting fruit. Naturally small trees—like Wurtz, Gwen, and Whitsell—are your best bet, and they don't have to be cross-pollinated to fruit.

Planting & Care

Add some sand to the bottom of a pot and fill in with regular potting mix so your tree doesn't get wet feet, and water it regularly without letting the soil get sopping wet. Ripe fruit can be left hanging on the tree for a few weeks.

Habitat

Warm-season plants, avocados like lots of bright light. Right in line with a south-facing window is your best shot at finding it a happy place!

6. Bananas

Photo by Hardy Tropicals

Fruit?

Some banana trees produce edible fruit while others produce fruit you can't eat—and again you'll want to get a dwarf plant—such as Super Dwarf Cavendish or Dwarf Red—so that it doesn't grow too huge. They're self-fruitful, meaning they don't require a pollinator.

Planting & Care

Your banana tree's soil should be light and peat-y; fertilize it monthly to keep it growing strong. They like lots of water due to their enormous leaves, but you'll want to let the soil dry out fully between waterings. The leaves can be misted to simulate a humid climate.

Habitat

Lots of bright indirect sunlight is best, so set it up near a southern-facing exposure if possible. Rotate the plant periodically so that all sides get light.

7. Mulberries

Photo by Logee's

Fruit?

Yet again, you'll want to opt for a dwarf mulberry tree such as Dwarf Everbearing if you're growing it indoors. The fruit of a mulberry tree, which will look something like a blackberry but smaller, should be picked as soon as it's ripe—and the tree's fruit supply will ripen over time rather than all at once.

Planting & Care

Regular potting soil works fine, as will regular watering! Mulberry trees are slow-growing and like roomy pots.

Habitat

A warm, bright, sunny space is best for your mulberry tree; move it to a spot with full exposure from spring through fall, if possible.

Note: This piece originally indicated that fig trees only require indirect light, but has been updated to clarify that edible fruit-bearing fig trees need lots of direct sunlight. This story is being re-upped from last spring.


Speaking of Bananas

This article was originally published in Spring 2016, and we're running it again because we love greenery indoors.

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43 Comments

Steven W. May 19, 2017
Inspiring! Thanks.
 
Alison May 19, 2017
I'd love to try a kumquat tree, since they are tasty little fruits and will look around for one. I've had a Meyer lemon for almost 15 years, and although it has never (in my opinion, relative to other indoor plants) truly flourished in its mainly indoor life, I get five to ten lemons every year. They make great cocktails. The flowers are very fragrant, and it is a pretty shrub when it's happy. I think my house (in Denver) doesn't get quite enough sun indoors, even though I would say it is a sunny house generally, so the lemon bush does best when it spends the summer outdoors. I would agree that citrus plants and other plants that like to be outside in warmer climates aren't at their best indoors in cooler climates; mine is prone to spider mites, no matter what I do, and never has as many fruit as I hope for... I assume the kumquat would be similar, but it's still worth taking a chance.
 
Li May 19, 2017
I keep my kumquat tree indoors in an area with high levels of sunshine for most of the morning. I currently have over 20+ fruit on tree. When it flowers, the aroma is just beautiful but it is prevalent more in the evenings. Chinese florists/flower shops may carry them year round but especially around Chinese New year....<br />
 
Alice May 22, 2017
I only get one or two lemons from my Meyer lemon each year. It is about ten years old, so it should be mature. What do you do to get so many lemons? It goes outside for the summer every year, and flowers in the fall when I bring it indoors.
 
Don't figs require wasps for pollination?
 
Winifred R. May 21, 2017
I grow Brown Turkey figs, and don't notice wasps as much when they're needing pollinated, but have found they love them when it's time to harvest and the fruit is very ripe. My bush is about 8 ft. tall and 15 ft. wide. It's to the east side of my house in SE Virginia, and I sell almost all at a local farmer's market. There gets to be almost 100 lbs/year. Probably more info than you wanted, but most of what I can think of that could be pertinent.
 
shawn February 14, 2017
These are all easy to grow, fast growing, and quick to fruit. Find them online at http://paradisenursery.com/product-category/fruit-trees/
 
foofaraw February 1, 2017
My answer to instant gratification plant is kaffir lime tree. With grow light and southern exposure, the tree grows fine indoor (a friend do similarly without grow light, and it sheds leaves in winter and slower in growth, but still ok), and you can always use fresh kaffir lime leaves anytime you want to make Thai dishes. No need to wait for fruits!<br />
 
Li January 12, 2017
If there's a way to load a picture of my indoor kumquat tree , I would. At least I think it's a kumquat tree. I bought it for my mom for Chinese New Years about 15 yes ago and it has never stopped bearing fruit. My mom passed away 2 yes ago and it has come back to my possession and for the life of me, I can't remember what the identification tag said the tree was. It's small, round and orangr
 
foofaraw February 1, 2017
Normally you need to load your photos somewhere else (imgur/reddit/photobucket/google photos with changed permission), then post the link of the image here.
 
Li February 1, 2017
Thank you for your feedback. Food52 should perhaps have that option here.
 
Lynda W. May 23, 2017
Possibly Calamondin? My mother grew one of these in a pot for a very long time. It was quite productive under less-than-ideal conditions although it did go outside for sun in the summer. Fruit small, round, orange, very sour, <br />and full of seeds. Made great jelly, though.
 
turtle_island January 11, 2017
Thanks for the article! Clearly some people have been successful in getting the trees to bear fruit, so some of the people in the comments need to settle down and stop being so rude. Even if you never get fruit, it's still nice to have one of these plants inside, and to know how to care for them.
 
Shawn C. November 29, 2016
love the photos. I think those are figs as in fig family of plant but indoor. as i know fruiting figs need outdoor light to produce. Great photo of the mulberry. http://paradisenursery.com/product-category/mulberry-trees/ and http://paradisenursery.com/product-category/fig-trees/ definitely know whats needed
 
Shawn C. November 29, 2016
love the photos. I think those are figs as in fig family of plant but indoor. as i know fruiting figs need outdoor light to produce. Great photo of the mulberry. paradisenursery.com/product-category/mulberry-trees/ and paradisenursery.com/product-category/fig-trees/ definitely know whats needed
 
Robin E. October 10, 2016
I live at an elevation of 8,100 feet in Wyoming, have had the same Meyer Lemon tree indoors for at least 20 years, and it produces a yearly crop of 15-20 nice sized lemons. I have taken it outside in the summer before but the deer can be brutal on plants so usually do not. The fragrance of the blossoms is magnificent.
 
Alice May 22, 2017
Do you fertilize? My Meyer lemon only gets one or two lemons a year.
 
Steven W. August 13, 2017
Try Dr Earth Organic Citrus and Fruit tree fertilizer. You can find it online Logee's.com
 
Josipa V. July 10, 2016
Second picture of avocado isn't avocado tree. It's money tree or Pachira aquatica
 
Jade S. June 15, 2016
Thank you for your informative piece! It's now saved in my archive, as it's great to have some readily accessible facts about what like to grow inside - especially for the city/apartment dwellers like myself (:
 
ns March 28, 2016
Happy to identify myself - Nan Sterman, www.PlantSoup.com. Sorry if you feel my comments are heavy handed but I've been in this profession for a long long time and one of the cardinal sins is presenting inaccurate and poorly researched information that sets up readers to fail. I'm always happy to help whomever asks and often serve as an expert source for other journalists looking for garden information. All they have to do is ask. I also answer many many questions from the public, most often when they are trying to do the impossible like following the descriptions provided in this article and expecting to succeed. When they fail, they give up, rather than realizing that the directions are not sufficient for the promised outcome. I am a regular subscriber to Food52, by the way, and usually comment on the food articles which is why I am identified only by my initials. This is the first time I've seen a piece on gardening. Food52 editors - if you are reading this, I'd be more than happy to write gardening/food pieces for you. Google me. You'll see I am more than qualified to do so.
 
Sharon H. March 27, 2016
Hey "ns" - I mentioned this down in the posts....a bit heavy-handed I'd say (your critique"....writer was trying her best. See her comments below. If you are a professional garden journalist, why wouldn't you identify yourself in order to help the writer? We need to support each other. Some people CAN get these to fruit indoors but (as mentioned below in two posts from me) but they need to know what they are doing. Submitted respectfully.
 
ns March 27, 2016
Sorry but this piece is sadly ill informed and very misleading. None of these trees will fruit indoors. All are better grown outdoors and all need to be in very large containers with large amounts of fruit and considerable irrigation/fertilizer to fruit even in containers outside. The plants might grow inside but they won't fruit and to suggest they will, will simply lead people to disappointment. And while I am at it, to confuse fiddle leaf fig with edible fig shows how little research the author did. I am a professional garden journalist and this is not professional, nor accurate, garden journalism.
 
Michelle S. March 24, 2016
Where is the best place to buy lemon plants and/or avocado plants online?
 
Steven W. August 13, 2017
Logee's.com is one place...
 
Hannah W. March 11, 2016
For my high school graduation I asked for a lime tree. It's still thriving almost 10 years later!! I've had to repot it a few times and almost lost it once to low sunlight but couldn't recommend it more!
 
btglenn March 6, 2016
You should have prefaced your text with the fact that the plants you suggest all require a sunny location!
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. March 7, 2016
Hi btglenn! I've updated the fig tree habitat section to clarify that they, too, require lots of direct light.
 
Sharon H. March 6, 2016
The Botanical Garden at the University of B.C. in fact. Forgot to add that Mulberry and other thin-leafed plants will fall prey to spider mites - tiny little mites that you can't see without a magnifying glass. You can ID them by their small webs.....they suck the juices from the plants and the leaves go yellow; it spreads easily to other thin-leafed indoor plants.
 
Sharon H. March 6, 2016
I respectfully submit, as someone who works at a botanical garden and has written a couple of books, that some of this information is a bit awry. Figs need bright light - the edible kind. Others in the Ficus family (indoor plant types) can take diffuse light. Plants that are meant to live outside usually do poorly unless grown by experts. Sorry!
 
theresa C. March 6, 2016
I agree as someone who has a few figs trees on my property, that they need as much direct sun light as possible to bear fruits. The ones that are planted in shader locations grow slower and much less fruitful. Sun and fresh air are two most essential elements. This is pretty much true with any fruit bearing plants based on my personal 30+ year experience.
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. March 7, 2016
Sharon and Theresa, you're so right! I've made the change above and appreciate clarification.
 
Smaug January 12, 2017
All of this is extremely optimistic- one point that is ignored- a properly designed house will receive little or no direct sun through the windows in the summer because of the angle of the sun, though there may be quite a bit in the winter. Another point (among many)- citrus develop sugar in response to cold.